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Vintage Gloss System

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Guitar Vintage Gloss Finish

Martin Guitar’s Research and Development (R&D) team rediscovered a recipe used by its craftsmen and women in the early 1900s to final-dress by hand the lacquer on our guitars. The end result is a warm glow appearance that is as enticing to the eye as it is to the touch.  Martin’s new Vintage Gloss Finishing will be featured on the Authentic Series instruments.

In 2015, all Authentic models except for 42 Style and 45 Style (which will be Full Gloss), will be finished by hand with Martin's rediscovered and historically accurate Vintage Gloss finish. This is consistent with processes used at Martin during the 1930s. 

Models with Vintage Gloss Finish

We wanted to learn as much as possible about Martin Guitar historical finishes, specifically what materials were used and what processes were in place during the 1900-1940s.

Looking over our vast collection of Martin vintage instruments in our museum collection, we noticed many of them had what appeared to be a ‘satin’ appearance to the lacquer. During the early 1900s, Martin did not spray a ‘satin’ finish but yet many of the guitars look as if the finish was not as shiny or clear as today’s finishes. Learning just how Martin finished guitars during the early 1900s has been the source of many debates and discussions, usually ending with ‘agree to disagree’. Through the years, many guitar builders have claimed to have a more ‘true’ Martin finish, but the actual factory step-by-step recipe had been changed to accommodate the modern finishes of today that are super glossy and clear. Finding the actual recipe sent us deep into the document archives. While this archive has thousands of known documents, many are still undergoing the process of cataloging so that they can be searched easily. This led us to scour over thousands of digitally scanned historical letters and non-archived documentation page by page, in the hope of finding something which outlined Martin’s finish process from the early 1900s.

As we sifted through the material, we found letters and factory documents that revealed not only the materials used in the finishing process, but the step-by-step method to achieve the correct Martin Guitar final finish for that time period. Fortunately we were able to find these documents, like the one pictured, and use them to bring more authenticity to our Martin Authentic line of instruments.

We also found that during this time, the mirror gloss finish (well known today) was reserved for 42 and 45 Style instruments only. All other models received the less glossy finish we are now going to call Vintage Gloss. This finish was done by hand, without the use of modern equipment, and polished up to a soft, great feeling luster. Guitars that underwent that process in the early 1900s have a very unique appearance today. Simply spraying satin onto a guitar will not duplicate this appearance. As the years pass, those instruments are what we see today in museums and in many guitar aficionado’s collections.  The look of those finishes, even the best maintained ones, have less gloss on them than modern finishes.

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